DETROIT -- General Motors’ timeline to introduce its first semi-autonomous vehicle has slipped by several months as the automaker works to perfect the system, which allows hands-free highway driving even while in traffic.
In a statement to Automotive News, GM confirmed that the so-called Super Cruise technology will debut on the CT6 large sedan sometime during 2017. That would be at least several months later than the fall 2016 on-sale date that GM CEO Mary Barra cited when she announced the plans in September 2014.
“Getting the technology right and doing it safely is most important, so the exact month of introduction cannot be announced at this time,” the company said without detailing the reason for the delay.
In an interview today, global product chief Mark Reuss said, "It will come out when it is ready."
The delay underscores the complexity that automakers face in introducing features that allow the driver to take his or her hands off the wheel while letting the car take over. Tesla Motors this week said it is revising its hands-free Autopilot software to restrict its use under certain conditions, following criticism that the system didn’t work reliably when it was rolled out in October.
Tesla said the update will disable the autopilot function on residential streets and on roads that don’t have a dividing line and will limit the car’s speed while in Autopilot mode to 5 mph over the speed limit. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he is not aware of any accidents caused by the system.
GM’s Super Cruise is designed to allow for hands-off lane following, braking and speed control on the highway, both in bumper-to-bumper traffic as well as uncongested conditions.
The automaker has been testing the Super Cruise system for many years. As early as 2012, it demonstrated the system for journalists at its proving grounds in Michigan.
At the time of the September 2014 announcement, Barra emphasized the technical challenges of perfecting the technology.
“It’s critical that it works flawlessly every single time,” Barra told reporters. “When you look at what has got to come together to make this happen -- not just for straight driving on a section of highway, but for every city situation you can imagine -- there’s quite a bit of technology that has to come together to make this work.”
Richard Truett contributed to this report